The Plain Dealer  Cleveland, OH
Wednesday, October 27, 1999

BOGUS EXPERT WITNESS PLEADS GUILTY TO PERJURY HE TESTIFIED CMHA LETTERS WERE GENUINE
by
JAMES EWINGER PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

E-mail: jewinger@plaind.com Phone: (216) 999-4111

 

   A self-described handwriting expert pleaded guilty to perjury

yesterday for lying about his credentials when he testified for a

former public-housing executive.

 

  F. Aurelius McKanze faces up to five years in prison.

 

  McKanze, who also uses the name Fulton J. McCants, testified Sept.

23 in the civil suit Claire E. Freeman-McCown brought against the

Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority for her 1998 firing. Freeman-

McCown was fired because the CMHA board found that she received about

$320,000 in unauthorized loan payments and fringe benefits. 

 

  McKanze testified that two letters authorizing payments for

Freeman-McCown, which the board claimed were forged, were in fact

genuine.

 

  The jury in that case found in favor of CMHA, and ordered Freeman-

McCown to pay $462,200 because she defrauded the housing agency.

 

  Within a day of McKanze's testimony, numerous current and former

CMHA employees called The Plain Dealer to denounce McKanze as a man

with an extensive criminal record, including convictions for several

theft and fraud-related charges going back to 1961. He also had

worked for the agency.

 

  Lawyers for Freeman-McCown insisted that they did not know of

McKanze'sbackground, and said they got his name from the phone book,

under "handwritinganalysts and experts," while preparing Freeman-

McCown's case.

 

  McKanze testified that he was a certified document examiner, had

retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel and had an

undergraduate degree from Ohio State University and a graduate degree

in psychology from the University of Arizona.

 

  Calls to the colleges and a federal records center in St. Louis

revealed that he never attended either school, and may have served as

an enlisted man under another name.

 

  In a phone interview last month, McKanze, who gave his age as 62,

dismissed the criminal history and lack of academic records by saying

that someone had stolen his credentials and identity.

 

  McKanze, appearing in court yesterday, told Common Pleas Judge

Lillian J.Greene that he actually is 70. She set his bond at $2,500.

 

  His lawyers declined to comment.

 

  "This con man's aliases, bogus degrees and fast talking have

failed him," said County Prosecutor William D. Mason. "I assigned two

dedicated prosecutors who have eliminated this threat to the

integrity of our justice system."

 

  Assistant County Prosecutor Frankie Goldberg said "plain and

simple, he lied when he testified. He betrayed the justice system."

 

  Assistant County Prosecutor Darcy Moulin said she discovered a

court record showing that McKanze was called as an expert witness in

1990. But the judge did not let him testify because his credentials

did not support his claim as a handwriting expert.

 

  Moulin said "it appears he used that experience as a learning

tool," because he lied and embellished his credentials to shield him

against future challenges.

 

  After Plain Dealer inquiries exposed McKanze last month, CMHA

lawyers subpoenaed him, and Judge Nancy Fuerst issued a bench

warrant, all of which he ignored.

 

  Sheriff's Inspector Daniel Calvey said that when detectives later

executed a search warrant for Moulin and Goldberg, they found the

civil subpoenas still glued to the front door of McKanze's South

Euclid home while he was in the backyard mowing grass.

 

  Michael Reilly, owner of Reilly Painting and Contracting in

Cleveland Heights, said he was surprised to learn of McKanze's

background. Reilly said he had employed McKanze for nine years and

said McKanze did exemplary work. In one case, Reilly said, McKanze

identified an employee who wrote an obscene note to Reilly and left

it on his car.

 

  "It's ironic to find that our background checker had background

problems," Reilly said.